Grossman family west

san francisco

Archive for the ‘rant’ Category

DirecTV price-gouging on NFL Sunday Ticket HD

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Before you subscribe to DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, you should be aware of some offensive hidden price-gouging policies. As background, I am paying for two services, currently:

1) The NFL Sunday Ticket, at about $250+ for the season. This allows me to watch nearly any NFL game on any given Sunday. While expensive, DirecTV is upfront and clear about the pricing, so I have no complaints. I understand the “deal” here and can chose to subscribe or not.

2) A monthly “HD Access” fee. A DirecTV Customer Service rep described the point of this fee to me via email: “In regards to the HD Access, this allows you to get the HD versions of any channel in your programming package that is simulcast in HD.” I pay this $9.99 fee every month, so I get HD versions of channels. This also applies if I buy a set of movie channels (e.g. HBO): If I do NOT pay the regular HD access fee, I only get low-def HBO channels. If I do pay the HD Access fee, then I also get the HD versions of these HBO Channels.

Here’s where DirecTV’s deceptive policies start: it turns out that the DirecTV HD Access fee DOES NOT GIVE YOU ACCESS TO THE HD SIMULCAST OF NFL GAMES. That is to say, the $250+ I pay for NFL Sunday Ticket PLUS the monthly $9.99 “HD Access” fee only gives me the low-def version of the NFL Games (and that the DirecTV reps explanation “[the $9.99 monthly HD Access fee]allows you to get the HD versions of any channel in your programming package that is simulcast in HD” is a lie).

If I want the HD SIMULCAST version of the games, I have to pay an EXTRA $99 for that. This is particularly offensive because it seems like it should be an identical situation to movie channels. If I buy the movie channels as an add-on to my programming package (just like NFL Sunday Ticket), the regular $9.99 HD Access fee DOES include the movie channel HD simulcasts. But not for NFL Games from the NFL Sunday Ticket.

The policy is inconsistent and price-gouges NFL Sunday Ticket customers. BUYER BEWARE OF DIRECTV!

This is the problem with monopolies. They can get away with ridiculous policies like this that, frankly, should be illegal (if a lawyer with extra time thinks that there’s a class-action suit here, I’m happy to be named).

Did Delta kill their online support because of me?

Monday, August 25th, 2008

This is a follow up to my recent post about Delta Airline’s Customer Hating Policies. I went back to today–Ileave for my trip in a day or two and decided I’d make a last-ditch effort to use my apparently worthless 140,000+ Delta Skymiles. Much to my surprise, it looks like the website no longer offers the “helpful” online chat feature with Customer Service that they once offered.

Of course, this now means that I’ll have to call. But the details of a call are more difficult to post on my blog (very conveeeeeenient…). Maybe I’ll figure something out. WordPress seems to have a feature that allows me to embed audio…

Delta Hates Its Customers… and its Customer Service Reps know it

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

The poor Delta reps have a terrible job. Their company has customer-hating policies and the reps have to deal with it. Here’s my most recent online “chat” with one. No attempt to defend the customer-hating policies at all.

Note: During your chat session, Delta agents may be able to view your transactions. Additionally, chat conversations are recorded and monitored by Delta Air Lines.
Please wait while we contact the next available agent…

You are now speaking with Malcolm!
Hi! My name is Malcolm. How may I help you?
joel : Hi Malcom
joel : i don’t understand the Skymiles program
joel : can you help? What’s the goal of Skymiles?
joel : are you still there?
Malcolm: Hi Joel! Please see the following page to check out all the cool benefits to being a SkyMiles member.
Malcolm has sent you a web page.
Please click on the following link to view it:

joel : OK, yah, i’ve been there
joel : i was poking around while you were typing
joel : great, i have a lot of miles
joel : 140,000
joel : looks like i can do some cool stuff
joel : indeed, i just bought an expensive tickets… two, actually.
joel : man, it’s going to be nice… i want to use my miles to upgrade
joel : can you help me?
Malcolm: Please have a look on the following application to book Award Ticket Reservations, to check the miles requirement and availability of SkyMiles award seats on as per your convenience.

Malcolm has sent you a web page.
Please click on the following link to view it:
Award Ticket

joel : one sec…
Malcolm: May I have your confirmation number?
joel : sure, that would be great
joel : because the website doesn’t seem to be working
joel : it’s <confirmation number redacted>

joel : $1900 per ticket (!)
joel : two tickets
joel : lots of miles to upgrade…
joel : but i’ve been a good customer
joel : so i’ve got ’em

Malcolm: I am sorry Joel; your ticket is not eligible for upgrades using miles, as you have booked your tickets in K and T class in coach. Generally, fares booked in Y, B or M class in coach; can be upgraded using our SkyMiles mileage upgrade awards.
joel : so $1900 is not enough to spend on a ticket
joel : just for the privilige to spend more, via miles?
joel : for a customer who has 140,000 miles?
joel : hmmm, i don’t really understand
joel : doesn’t feel like a “cool benefit”
joel : feels like i’ve been duped, if i understand you correctly
joel : does that sound about right?
joel : or am i misunderstanding something?
Malcolm: Joel, all classes are not upgradeable using miles. Only tickets booked in Y, B or M class can be upgraded using miles.

joel : i think i understand. even though i’ve been a histoically good customer (enough to accumulate 140,000 miles), i’m not actually entitled to use any of my “thank you” from Delta unless i spend much much more
joel : c’,mon, malcom. Doesn’t feel quite like i’m loved by Delta, does it?
Malcolm: Can I help you with anything else today?
joel : please
joel : do employees there understand that the stock value of Delta puts the company value at under $3B while Southwest airlines is valued by the stock market at nearly $12B (four times as much)? Do they think, maybe, it’s because of policies like these?
joel : that the PAYING CUSTOMERS dispise the company?
joel : i’m curious if they’re aware of that
joel : and if they may want to reconsider the policy

joel : we’ll call them “customer-hating policies”
joel : i think you have a tough job
joel : defending terrible policies
joel : it’s actually an impossible job
joel : a thankless one
Malcolm: I�m sorry Joel, but I need to end this chat. Please get back to us with any further questions.
joel : ok
joel : goodnight
Malcolm left the chat.
Your chat has ended.��

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed participating in it. The difference between great companies and terrible ones is particularly pronounced in the airline industry, I think, and I take some joy in illustrating why people should NOT fly Delta and let the cruel arm of capitalism claim this poorly-run company.

Have a great weekend.

Is Microsoft Money dead?

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Later, I’ll write a more philosophical blog about online financial services, like But this is actually a legitimate question–I think Microsoft might be killing MS Money.

I’m currently using Money 2006 and, based on my installation date, it’s now telling me that my online services are about to expire (starting Sept 1) and that I need to upgrade. But clicking on the Upgrade link does nothing.

So I figured I’d just go buy a copy of the new version. Here’s where it gets strange: the Company Store is Sold Out. (As a former Microsoft employee and paying Alumni member, I have limited access to the Microsoft Company Store–a nice little perk that lets me buy a limited amount of Microsoft software at a discount).

It’s very strange for the company store website to show a product as Out Of Stock. So I sent them an email asking about it. They tell me (quoted):

—–Original Message—–
From: Microsoft Company Store
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 5:25 PM
To: ‘joel grossman’
Subject: RE: Microsoft Money? ~259719

It is actually discontinued, and we are sold out so will not be receiving
any more.

Thank you,
Microsoft Company Store

I ask for clarification. They say:

We have not been told if it’s being replaced with anything new.

Thank you,
Microsoft Company Store

Does anyone out there know? Could Microsoft really kill the product (has it been that much of a failure? I like it!)? What happens to those of us using the software that is apparently about to expire??


I can’t believe MicroCenter is still in business

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

I seem to have made some traction by blogging about bad experiences in the past, so here’s another:

Don’t buy anything at MicroCenter. They sell two types of computer products: those from brand-name manufacturers that you can get online for much less money, and generic white-label items that are total junk.

Last month, I made the mistake of heading to MicroCenter to buy the latter. In spite of the fact that major manufacturers sell PCs for $500 or so (I didn’t need a monitor or any fancy specs), I headed to MicroCenter in search of a deal. Sure enough, I found a “PowerSpec” (MicroCenter brand) tower for about $420, with “good enough” specs (2 GHz Athelon, 500 MR Ram, 150 GB HD).

I was content with my purchase until, 5 weeks later, the system clock started acting up. Whenever I turned the computer back on, the clock would be wrong (usually, the date as well as the time was totally off). Sure that the PC was still under warranty, I brought it into the Cambridge MicroCenter, where I purchased it five weeks earlier.

The service was absolutely horrific:

  1. Although they knew that they couldn’t even look at my computer for 3 days, they would not schedule me for a service appointment then. They insisted that I drop my computer off NOW so it could sit on their bench for 3 days until they got around to it. Mind you, my computer was mostly fine, so I’d be losing it for NO reason–they just didn’t have their act together to draw up a service schedule. When pressed, the woman on the phone explained that “it just couldn’t work that way.” Apparently, MicroCenter doesn’t hire employees with enough competence to use a calendar. Good thing that Dr offices, automotive service repair shops, and restaurants have managed to crack this very complicated problem.
  2. Even though I had purchased THEIR brand of computer from THEIR store a mere 5 weeks earlier, they charged me $85 JUST TO LOOK AT IT! I was horrified.
  3. They somehow managed to break my computer and “fix it”, thereby keeping the $85. That is, they called me and told me that they couldn’t get it to boot (the ONLY problem I had was the clock when I had brought it in). Magically, though, when they tried to boot it, they claimed that they couldn’t–that they had to “safe boot” it and reinstall a video driver.

These are just the facts. I leave out the fact that the actual customer service was frustratingly slow, that the salespeople were pushy (like used car salesmen) when I was considering a purchase, and that the service reps were disinterested with me, their jobs, or the quality of their service.

There is absolutely no reason for you to go to MicroCenter. Just skip it. The stuff that they sale is junk (and they know it because they don’t offer free repair for even 35 days) and the name-brand products are cheaper elsewhere. Do yourself a favor and stay away.